Discover what to do in Santiago Chile in this expert’s insider travel guide. Plan your trip like a pro.
Romantically situated between the towering Andes Mountains and the glistening Pacific Ocean, Santiago is Chile’s biggest and most bustling city.
Santiago will most probably be your first and last point of contact as you arrive and explore the thinnest and longest country in the world. Most travellers stay just a night before continuing onto the Atacama Desert or Patagonia but Santiago deserves a little more time.
Santiago is one of the best cities in South America for art (particularly street art), culture and gastronomy so there’s plenty to explore here that will keep you busy for a few days.
I actually lived in Santiago for almost 6 years and I loved its chilled out vibe, the friendly locals, mild weather and the delicious wine. I’ve collected so much insider intel in those 6 years and I’m really excited to share it all with you here, so you can plan the perfect stay in Santiago.
Here are my recommendations on what to do in Santiago Chile. You’ll find all the best things to do in Santiago, Chile, where to eat, sleep, drink and all my top tips for visiting the city.
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Best Time to Visit Santiago, Chile
Santiago Chile is a year-round travel destination. The city sees all four seasons and in general, summers are hot and winters are mild and short.
Make sure to note that being in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed.
The best time to visit Santiago Chile is in the spring and fall months- September-December and March-April are the best times to be in Santiago. The weather is beautiful at this time, temperatures are pleasant for exploring the city.
If you visit in September, you’ll also be able to experience Independence Day celebrations when the city fills with festivals (fondas) and everyone emerges from winter hibernation.
Note that if you suffer from seasonal allergies, avoid springtime in Santiago- the dust and pollen tend to get pretty bad.
Note that if you visit in February you’ll find the city to be dead- which has its pros and cons. February is vacation month in Chile and most Santiago residents escape to the beach and other areas of the country for vacations.
Getting to Santiago & Getting Around
Most travellers land at Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport. The Santiago airport code is SCL. The airport has been recently renovated and it’s huge now.
The airport is located about 20km northwest of the city center.
The best way to get to Santiago City is via a reputable transfer company or reputable taxi. There are so many unauthorised agents at the arrivals gate who try to lure in unsuspecting travellers only to hand them a whopping bill at the end of the ride- make sure not to get caught out.
Uber and Cabify work in Santiago, but they aren’t allowed at the airport.
Getting around Santiago is quite easy. The metro system is affordable and easy to use. If you’re in Santiago it might be worth getting a Bip! Card- a local transport card- from the kiosk at a metro station. It costs about $1,300CLP with a minimum top-up of $1,000CLP.
Each ride on the metro costs a maximum of 720CLP ($0.80), less during off-peak hours.
Ride-sharing apps also work around Santiago and they are a good idea for getting around the city. Uber isn’t as safe as it used to be so I’d recommend downloading Cabify. It’s a little more expensive but a lot more reputable.
Try not to flag down taxis on the street, they tend to overcharge and they aren’t the safest, especially for foreigners.
2024 Safety in Santiago– When it comes to safety in Santiago, things have really gone downhill in the last few years. With a rise in mugging, assaults, and carjackings, not all areas of the city (that you’ll want to visit) are as safe as they used to be. You’ll need to really be alert in Santiago Centro, Bellas Artes, Bellavista and Barrio Lastaria. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit, I just recommend being more alert than normal, leaving your valuables at your hotel and keeping your phone out of sight.
40 Things to Do in Santiago, Chile
Here are all of my insider must-do activities when visiting Santiago, Chile. I’ve roughly ordered the list by area, and many of these sights are close to each other so you can visit them all when in that area.
Visit Plaza de Armas and Around
The best way to start in Santiago is by seeing the historical centre.
Plaza de Armas is the main historical square of Santiago, founded by Pedro de Valdivia back in 1541. It was here where the first Spanish settlers of Santiago lived.
Around it, you can find several historical buildings such as the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, the Central Post Office and the Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago.
All these buildings are definitely worth a look from the outside and if you fancy, take a look inside the main Cathedral. It’s gold and pretty impressive with all its gilding and frescoes.
In Plaza de Armas, you’ll also find locals engaged in games of chess where you can watch them play and even have a game yourself.
Make sure to watch your stuff in this area as pickpockets operate in this area.
Spend some Time in Santiago’s Museums
Santiago has some fantastic museums to take advantage of during your stay. Visiting a museum is one of the best things to do in Santiago, Chile and there are many different types, depending on what you want to see.
You’ll find many of the city’s most iconic in the center of the city as well as some good private galleries in Las Condes and Vitacura.
Museo Pre-Colombino – One of the best museums in Santiago, where you can learn about the culture and arts of Pre-Colombian America and Chile before Spanish rule. They have a splendid collection and the artefacts are well-curated and beautifully displayed.
Centro Cultural La Moneda– Located under La Moneda Palace this modern art museum has many rotating exhibitions as well as a decent standing collection.
Fine Arts Museum– Housed in a beautiful neo-classical building in Parque Forestal there are many different works on display here from Chilean and International artists.
Museum of Memory and Human Rights– Here you can learn more about the dark dictatorship of Pinochet. The museum serves as a stark reminder of these past events so they never happen again.
Contemporary Art Museum– A great museum dedicated to contemporary art in Chile and beyond.
GAM – Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center or GAM as it’s known locally, is a museum and cultural space with a variety of things going on. It’s a great place to see some art, grab and coffee and hang out.
Ralli Museum Santiago– A private museum located in Vitacura, it’s a great one to discover what’s going on in the Chilean art world today. They showcase the best of Chilean, Latin and international artists.
Visit the City’s Parks
Santiago has some great green spaces to relax in, have a picnic or go for a run. They are lovely places for people watching too and get some time in nature amongst all the concrete.
Some of the best parks in the city are Parque Bicentinaro, Araucano Park, Quinta Normal and San Cristobal Hill which belongs to the Metropolitan Park. It’s the largest park in the city and if you were to visit on the weekend you’ll see all the residents head there on their bikes.
Bicentinaro and Araucano Park and two lovely parks where you can grab a coffee in a cafe nearby and relax.
Quinta Normal Park is a good one to check out when visiting some museums in and around it.
Visit Pablo Neruda’s Santiago Home
The famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, owned three properties in Chile, one in Santiago, one in Valparaiso and another at Isla Negra on the Pacific Coast. La Chascona is his Santiago residence located in the Bellavista neighbourhood.
The house was built for Matilde Urrutia, Neruda’s secret lover at the time in the 1950s. Neruda himself later came to live in it too and the two spent their days here when in the city.
The La Chascona House Museum is a quirky residence right beneath San Cristobal Hill and by visiting it you’ll be able to learn more about the poet’s life.
Go Kitsch Shopping in Persa Bio Bio
Not many visitors know about Persa Bio Bio and you certainly won’t find many tourists here but this local spot is one of the best things to do in Santiago, Chile.
Persa Bio Bio is a flea market located in the Franklin neighbourhood. The market is open on weekends from about 11am until 3pm.
Here you can find many different antiques, market stalls and kitsch as well as many local food stalls and cafes. The best thing to do is just to take a wander around, buy some unusual tinkets to take home and try some of the splendid food on offer.
Personally, this is one of my favourite local spots in Santiago.
Visit a Santiago Vineyard
Chile produces some excellent wines and most of the country’s vineyards are located in the Central Valley which isn’t far from Santiago. The city also has a few great vineyards you can visit for the afternoon to tour the vineyard and experience some of Santiago’s best wine.
Cousiño Macul is a family run vineyard right in Santiago. It’s the easiest one to reach and you can get to Macul by metro. Sadly, almost all their tours are in Spanish but they do run bike tours, vineyard tours and tastings. Check their website here for all the details.
Viña Santa Rita– Located just outside Santiago, Santa Rita is another great vineyard to visit. They are a huge vineyard that makes many different types of wine including premium wines. They export a lot of their products.
Vina Concha y Toro– Chile’s biggest winery, here you can organise a vineyard tour and tasting to experience some of their most popular wines.
One of the best ways to experience the vineyards is on a tour because transportation out to them is limited unless you rent a car for the day. Check out this Concha y Toro Winery Tour or this premium tour to Santa Rita.
Check out the Street Art
Santiago has a thriving street art scene which can be seen around the city. As you explore, I’m sure you’ll come across some amazing works by both Chilean and International artists.
Some of the best areas for street art are right outside Bellas Artes Metro Station, in Barrio Franklin, Bellavista and Barrio Brasil.
Much of the art is politically or culturally charged, as well as being very aesthetic to look at.
Grab a Performance at the Municipal Theatre
Two blocks from Santa Lucia Hill, you’ll find the Municipal Theatre of Santiago, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
Built in 1857 in a neo-classical style, this building presents opera, ballet and music performances to this day. You can catch ballets like Swan Lake or local and international theatre performances.
It’s worth taking a look at their website here to see what’s on during your stay.
Explore Barrio Italia
Probably my favourite neighbourhood in Santiago, Barrio Italia is Santiago’s coolest hipster area. The area is really small yet it’s packed full of cosy cafes, bars, restaurants and furniture retailers.
Barrio Italia is also where you’ll find Santiago’s antique sellers- there are many local shops which restore and sell antiques which make a great stop when exploring the area.
I actually spent 3 years living in the heart of Barrio Italia and this website was born there! Here are some of my favourite spots in Barrio Italia not to miss.
Madeleine– the best bakery in Santiago, run by a French couple. They bake the best bread and cakes in town so make sure not to miss it. Come early because they tend to sell out fast.
Pepperland Bar– one of the oldest brewpubs in the area. It’s best for craft beer.
Galpon Italia– A converted warehouse bar- the coolest place for drinks.
Estacion Italia– The cutest passageway mall linking Italia and Condell Streets. It has so many local boutiques to take a look at.
Lusitano– Lovely modern restaurant with a great patio.
The Jazz Corner– the spot for post-dinner live jazz.
Gelateria Firenze– the best gelato in Santiago, without a doubt.
Casaluz– Great more upscale spot for dinner and drinks. In the warmer months reserve a table in their super romantic patio out back.
Silvestre Bistro– modern Chilean food in a relaxed atmosphere in the heart of Barrio Italia.
Take a City Tour
There’s no better way to get to know the different areas of Santiago than to take a city walking tour with one of the local guides. They’ll tell you all about the city’s history, show you all the major sights and you’ll be able to ask them any questions you might have.
Taking a city tour is perfect if you don’t have much time and you want to see the city’s highlights.
Visit the Central Market (Mercado Central)
The Central Market is a lovely place to visit to get acquainted with Chilean produce and cuisine. It is a little touristy but it’s still a good place to visit.
There’s a large seafood and produce section where you can walk through and discover some unique Chilean seafood and produce. You can also eat inside or immediately outside the market and sample a wide variety of different foods.
Emporio Zunino is an empanada shop that’s been around since the 1930s- a great place to try the famed Chilean empanada- go for an Empanada de Pino for the true, classic one.
I personally wouldn’t eat seafood here, however- it’s just average and there are far better places around the city.
Visit Estacion Mapocho
Just over the Mapocho River, you’ll find Estacion Mapocho, a converted railway station that is now an exhibition event space and cultural venue. You’ll be able to walk around, check out any exhibitions that are running and catch up on a bit of Santiago culture.
Take a Tour of La Moneda
La Moneda is the presidential palace and the seat of the president of the Republic of Chile.
It was built in 1784 by Joaquin Toesca and houses the offices of three cabinet ministers: Interior, General Secretariat of the Presidency and General Secretariat of the Government.
The palace is huge and takes up one whole block of downtown Santiago. If you’re lucky enough you can see the changing of the guard, however, that only happens once every two days.
Tours of the inside of the Palace are available to book online- they need to be scheduled in advance a couple of weeks before your arrival. Tours run Monday through Thursday at 4.30 pm. To arrange a guided visit fill out the form here.
Visit Santa Lucia Hill
From La Moneda, it’s a short metro ride to Santa Lucia, where you can take a gorgeous afternoon stroll on the grounds of Cerro Santa Lucia.
The hill measures 69m over the surrounding area, meaning that once you reach the top you’re rewarded with great views over the city. At the top, you’ll also find two forts built in 1816 to house cannons.
Now, with little risk of being blown up, they are pretty structures to walk through while enjoying the views. It’s a nice park to go for a walk in for a while.
Explore Barrio Yungay
Barrio Yungay is one of the classic Santiago neighbourhoods where the wealthy used to live in the 1900s.
This charming neighborhood, nestled within the bustling city, boasts cobblestone streets, colorful colonial-era houses or mansions, and lush parks that transport you to a bygone era.
Strolling through its streets, you’ll encounter vibrant street art, trendy cafes, and eclectic shops, reflecting the neighborhood’s artistic spirit. Yungay Park, a serene oasis, provides a perfect spot for relaxation.
Plus, the neighborhood’s rich history is encapsulated in the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, which is located here shedding light on Chile’s tumultuous past.
Hike or Bike up San Cristobal Hill or Take the Cable Car
While walking around the city center you may have already noticed a white Virgin Mary sitting on top of a tall hill. This hill is the home of the Metropolitan Park and it’s absolutely huge. It’s perfect for strolling, running and even mild hiking.
There are many things to do in Cerro San Cristobal. You can walk up to the Virgin or take the ‘ascensor’, the funicular on the Bellavista side, or the cable car from the Pedro de Valdivia side.
Religious or not, the walk up here is a great way to get the heart pounding and the quads burning and at the top, you’ll find some seriously photo-worthy views over the whole city. If you can get hold of some bikes from your hotel the ride to the top makes an awesome workout.
Note: If you are going to walk to the top, try not to stray from the main paths. Unfortunately, muggings happen on this hill. Avoid taking any valuables with you and stick to the main paths as much as possible.
Take a Dip at Tupahue Pool
If you’re visiting Santiago in the summer months, one of the best places to cool off in the city is the Tupahua Pool on San Cristobal Hill.
Surrounded by the hill’s nature and with panoramic vistas of the city and the Andes Mountains, you’ll be able to enjoy a cool and refreshing dip in one of the city’s only outdoor public pools.
It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday during the summer months.
View the City from Sky Costanera
South America’s tallest building is the Costanera Building in Santiago, Chile. While most of the building is just office space, on the top floor you’ll find the Sky Costanera Observation Deck.
Here you can catch the most brilliant views of Santiago and the towering Andes Mountains that form Chile’s backbone. It’s the perfect place to get your bearings and take some great photos.
Heading up for sunset is the best time to visit on a weekday as it does get crowded at weekends and you’ll save yourself some money too.
Go Shopping at Casa Costanera
One of my favourite places to shop in Santiago is Casa Costanera. Not to be confused with the gigantic Costanera Center Mall, Casa Costanera is a small, more upscale shopping center in Vitacura.
Here you’ll be able to find many high street brands and more upscale retailers too. I love it because of its architecture and design- it just doesn’t feel like you’re in a mall and much of the building is open to the street so there’s a nice connection with the outside world.
Visit the Bahai Temple
The Baha’i Temple is a striking shell-shaped temple that is one of a kind in South America. It sits right at the base of the Andes.
Whether you’re religious or not, it’s a really beautiful building in some of Santiago’s most natural surroundings.
It’s a beautiful spot to relax, enjoy the amazing view and see the sun go down. It’s got some beautiful gardens and picnic areas surrounding it so bring some snacks and just watch the sun go down as the day ends.
The Baha’i Temple is a little far from the centre of the city so it’s best to take a Cabify taxi to get here.
Given its location at the base of the Andes, Santiago has some fantastic hikes in and around it. If you’re staying a little longer and want to get out into nature, going for a hike is one of the best things to do.
If you head out during the week, you’ll find the trails all to yourself.
Some of the best hikes to do are in the Parque Cordillera right at the base of the mountains. You can also climb Manquehue Hill- the large flat-topped hill in Vitacura or head up Pochoco Hill, one of my favourite more challenging hikes.
For the full guide read The Best Hikes in Santiago, Chile
Take a Day Trip
There are many amazing day trips to be had from Santiago, Chile. In fact, you can use the city as a based for exploring all the amazing spots around the city. Some of the most popular day trips include:
Valparaiso– A day trip to the coastal, bohemian city is a must. Read the full Valparaiso travel guide here.
Casablanca Valley– One of the main white wine regions of Chile you can head to Casablanca and visit all the top vineyards in the area. You’ll need to rent a car to do this or take a tour- this one is one of the best.
Pomaire– more of a half-day trip, this little town is Chile’s pottery capital.
Maipo Valley– another valley for wine. Take this tour to visit a few different vineyards here.
Cajon del Maipo– A little town in the mountains a short drive from Santiago. Here you’ll be able to do various adventure and outdoor activities like biking and rafting.
Portillo– A ski resort, in the mountains near the Argentine border. If you visit in the winter you can head up here for a day of skiing. There’ ‘s also a gorgeous lagoon here in the middle of the mountains.
Planning a trip to the vineyards of the Casablanca Valley? Check out Top Vineyards in the Casablanca Valley, Chile
Learn about Chilean Pisco
Apart from wine, Chile’s most popular drink is pisco. One of the best places to drink it is at Chipe Libre – Republica Independiente del Pisco (José Victorino Lastarria 282).
This bar/restaurant is probably the best place to have a pisco sour and to learn about the spirit. They have so many different types of pisco to choose from and the waiters and super knowledgeable about it all. The food is good too.
Visit the Wine Bars
Santiago has some pretty great wine bars where you can try a number of fantastic local wines without having to go far Bocanariz in Barrio Lastaria is a famous wine bar that will have you tasting the best Chilean wines in no time.
Viniola in Vitacura is another splendid wine bar where you can relax in the evening and sample Chile’s more premium wines.
Check out some other great things to do in Santiago Chile below.
Where to Stay in Santiago, Chile
I’d recommend staying in the more affluent, eastern parts of the city which have better hotel options and they tend to be safer too, especially when going out at night. There are a few exceptions, Barrio Lastaria, for example, has some very good boutique hotels but I wouldn’t stay further west than that.
Providencia, Las Condes, Vitacura, Barrio Italia and Lastaria are good options. Here are some of my favourite properties.
The Singular– A fantastic hotel in Barrio Lastaria with a lovely rooftop bar. They also have a sister property in Patagonia, right by Torres de Paine National Park. Book your stay here.
Hotel Magnolia– A lovely boutique hotel in the center of the city with modern and classic elements. Book your stay here.
Mandarin Oriental – One of the newest luxury hotels in Santiago this newly opened hotel is classy, and modern and has one of the best spas in Santiago. Book your stay here.
Ritz Carlton – A large property with a superb location in Santiago. It has spacious, bright rooms and suites, many of which have gorgeous city and mountain views. Amazing breakfast and service. Book your stay here.
W Santiago– The W Hotel in Santiago, Chile, is a sleek urban oasis. The hotel features a trendy rooftop bar, a world-class spa, and modern guest rooms, making it a chic and vibrant destination for travellers seeking sophistication and style. Book your stay here.
Boutique Hotel Le Reve– Beautiful French-style mansion in Providencia that’ll transport you back to France. Located in a great, buzzing area of Providencia. Book your stay here.
Where to Eat and Drink in Santiago
There are so many amazing places to eat and drink in Santiago. I could easily include 30 more options and choosing the top few was difficult. Here are some of the best restaurants in Santiago Chile.
The selection includes a few classic and institutional favourites as well as some more hidden gems around the city.
Boragó– An absolute must. Boragó is one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World and one of the only few located in South America. Chef Rodolfo Guzman puts together a creative menu based on unique ingredients found only in Chile. Most of them are wild and you’ll never have heard of them before.
It’s definitely not a meal for every day, this really is a one-in-a-lifetime journey into Chile’s gastronomy like you’ve never experienced before.
La Liguria – Liguria is a Santiago classic and you’ll find a few branches around the city. It’s great for cocktails, Chilean sandwiches and other Chilean classics.
Antigua Fuente – A fuente de soda is a classic eatery selling most sandwiches and this is one of the best right on Plaza Italia. Order a sandwich, watch them prepare it in front of you and dig in. (If you’re in Providencia, then Fuente Alemana is good too)
Ana Maria – Located at the Club Hipico, it’s a down-to-earth Chilean Restaurant with some of classics done very well.
Chipe Libre– The best place to drink pisco in Santiago. They also have a good food menu for dinner too.
Bocanariz– a classic wine bar with great charcuterie boards in Lastaria.
Peluqueria Francesa– An antique hair salon and restaurant filled with antiques and trinkets from another era.
Viniola- A brilliant wine bar in the city.
Mestizo– A brilliant modern restaurant with a solid menu overlooking Parque Bicentinario. Brilliant for a long lunch.
La Mar– One of the best seafood restaurants in Santiago. It’s a more upscale spot but the seafood is to die for.
Naoki– The best Japanese food and sushi in Santiago. Their creative rolls are a must-try.
Verde Sazon – a great plant-based option located in the heart of Barrio Italia. This recently renovated restaurant has a superb and creative menu that beckons to be tried. After dinner, you can explore the neighbourhood for some well-deserved cocktails/drinks.
Top Tips for Visiting Santiago, Chile
↠ The best ways to get around Santiago are by metro and Cabify app. Avoid the metro at rush hour- it’s really really busy and be aware of pickpockets.
↠ Chileans, like the Spanish eat really late. Lunch is around 2-3 pm and dinner is about 9-10 pm, especially on weekends. If you go out to dinner at 7 pm it mostly probably will be empty or you’ll find the restaurant closed.
↠ Santiago is a huge city but you won’t go into most of it. It’s actually quite small when you just consider the most popular areas like Las Condes, Vitacura, Providencia, Barria Lastaria and parts of Centro.
↠ Don’t walk around solo at night, especially in the city centre. It’s best to take a cab via Cabify or ask your hotel to call you one.
↠ English is widely used in restaurants and for those who work in tourism. However, it’s still useful to know some basic Spanish.
↠ Having said that, if you know basic Spanish and find you don’t understand people don’t worry. I always say Chileans speak Chilean and not Spanish because they use a lot of slang and chop off ‘s’ when they speak. It’s difficult to follow if you don’t have an ear for it.
Santiago is a one-of-a-kind, beautiful city with so much to offer. The Andes backdrop for the city is always striking and the pink light radiating onto those mountains during sunset is simply stunning. I really hope you enjoy your stay in Santiago and find this guide useful.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what to do in Santiago. If you’ve spent 36 hours in Santiago recently let me know! Please comment below, and let me know if you have any questions.
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